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Rolling a seven forces you to move the robber from its current position, to another hex.

Are you allowed to move the robber to a hex (other than the desert) from which no one is producing resources? Your blockage of production becomes "trivial," and you have no one to rob.

Are there times where this might make sense? One might be from a "political" point of view, perhaps if you don't want to disturb the current balance of power? Or might it make sense to block a hex where you don't want someone to build a settlement, rather than actually having one already?

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From the game rules

You must move the robber immediately to the number token of any other terrain hex or to the desert hex.

The keyword here being any. So yes, you can move it to tiles without anyone on it.

Although I've never done this myself, I suppose there could be an argument made to do doing this for a couple reasons. One of them, like you mentioned, could be to appease other players. Another could be to try and allow someone to even the playing field. If player A is very ahead and has longest road, but player B is tied for longest road, you could place the robber on a unsettled tile as to not steal from Player B and allow them to try and take longest road which might even out the score a little bit.

However, an important distinction here is that this does not mean you cannot steal if you place it on a tile that does have settlements or cities on it. If you place the robber on a tile with other players cities or settlement, you must steal from one of them.

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    Worth noting that in older editions, the rules did not allow you to move the robber to the desert; this was changed at some point; I believe starting in 4th edition. – GendoIkari Jan 4 at 2:07
  • Another good reason is to simply move it further away from your settlements, protecting your own ability to produce in subsequent turns. – Moo Jan 4 at 21:25
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While certainly jp's answer covers the rules, your question also asks about situations you might want to, aside from politics (both inside and outside the game. I can say we've changed the rules substantially in our house because I'm not a fan of sleeping on the couch. What can I say, Alberta girls are competitive.)

I immediately think that if you have 7 cards in your hand, and not a good way (or even possible way) to play them, then you're going to put yourself at 8 cards. I would still consider it worth the risk, because hopefully you can trade still, but it is certainly a valid reason to pass up on the card.

An unlikely but probably possible scenario would be if your settlements and cities happen to touch every possible tile on which you could place the tile to steal and you don't feel like blocking your own tiles. I haven't done the math to see if it's possible. I highly suspect in this scenario you would have much more territory (as it were) than your opponents and not in a great deal of danger of losing, but nonetheless I present it as a scenario.

While I have your attention, I should note that while you mentioned blocking a settlement, this is no more part of Catan than money in the middle is part of a Monopoly as previously covered on Stack Exchange (although admittedly that was nearly 8 years ago and things may have changed.)

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    I don't think the question implies a misreading of the rules. Even though the robber does not forbid placing a settlement, you might place the robber to discourage building a settlement (since it will have lower yield until the robber is moved). Doesn't seem like a very strong play to me, but the right scenario could exist. – amalloy Jan 4 at 19:53
  • @amalloy Conceivable, but the final paragraph is still noteworthy. – corsiKa Jan 4 at 20:17
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A situation where it may make sense to move the robber to a "neutral" location:

  • the next player has a knight card (or you strongly believe they do, and that they probably only have one)
  • that player's style is to hold on to a knight card as "insurance", and play it before their roll if the robber is "on them".
  • you are the player they'd obviously target, and looking for more of the resource they'd probably deny you

By moving the robber to a neutral location, that player won't play their knight, the robber will stay where it is, and you'll have a chance to get more of your desired resource - perhaps for several more rounds if the robber stays put.

Can backfire of course if they roll a 7 or play a knight card despite not being "under attack" from the robber...

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